Real World Martial Arts: The Introduction of Realism

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man throwing a jab

In Martial Arts there exists a tendency to skirt around violence, to think of it symbolically through kata for instance, yet real world violence is what sits at the heart of the martial arts experience. As unpalatable and as unfavorable as it may seem, Martial Arts of any kind must sincerely engage with this reality if they are to be used as an effective form of combat or self defense. With this in mind there are avenues that can be followed in order to safely yet effectively introduce reality into the training Martial Artists undertake.

First and foremost the best way to engage with real world violence, though it may sound counter-intuitive, is not to throw oneself into more training straight away, rather it is to take a step back in order to look at the ways we train with a sense of honest objectivity. We must ask ourselves what ‘reality’ really means in regards to Martial Arts training, and we should ask if the ‘attacks’ we practice defending against in the dojo truly resemble the attacks we are likely to see in the street or in a bar when carried out by a violent drunkard. The likelihood is that they do not, but with a few simple changes we can all get that step closer to realistic practice.

  1. Punches, rather than being held out, can be quickly withdrawn to reduce compliance.
  2. Single punches or strikes can be replaced by multiple punches in quick succession
  3. Lone attackers could instead be groups or gangs of aggressors
  4. Attackers’ can begin to demonstrate violent intent, shouting and intimidating the ‘defender’ before moving in.

These four points demonstrate simple changes that can be made to the physical set up of drills in order to closer replicate the likely reality of twenty first century violence. Moreover, as students gradually progress, these changes can be combined to create scenarios in which students must deal with multiple attackers committed to attacking numerous times. The key, as with any skill, is to start slow and build up as students become more comfortable with the new situation. It may also be possible and indeed advisable to include, at later levels, some level of protective gear for either the attackers or defender in order to safely increase the intensity of attack without the risk of injury. This kind of training, above all else, will help condition students to the feeling of adrenal response in a safe, simulated environment

Lastly, though certainly not least, students can be encouraged to think about violence, to visualize aggressors and to visualize their response to dangerous situations in order to condition efficient neurological responses to threats. Sportsmen and sportswomen of all fields visualize their goals, they visualize how they will strike the ball, make the basket or return the serve, and it should come as little surprise that the same principle of visualization applies in the world of Martial Arts.

To conclude, then, we should train hard but train effectively with the end goal in mind. Rather than skirting around violence we should aim to make small changes that enable our training to get that little bit closer to reality.

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